Doing What’s Important

Yeshi Kangrang

We’ve talked about “Do Less … Then Obsess“, and it makes sense that people stop doing the fifty, sixty, seventy things that they are trying to juggle at the same time and trim that down to a much more reasonable number.

But is there something else you can do to help manage the deluge of work that always seems to come your way?  How do you “work smarter”?  It may not be a matter of doing what you are doing faster or more efficiently, it may be a matter of changing what work you are doing.

Ah, yes, the fool’s errand:  “If I could custom build my job what would it be like?”

That may not be such a fool’s errand.  It may indeed turn out that the job you’re doing, the one that you think you are doing as well as you can, that may not be the job that you need to be doing.

Let’s go back to my favourite book for this week – Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More – and see what the author says.  And, look at that, right after “Do less … then obsess” comes this one:

Redesign your work

The outcome is still the same, but how you get there may be completely different.  The book talks about how Greg Green and the teachers at Clintondale High School completely flipped how they teach. (Video)  Instead of lessons during the day and homework at night, they recorded their lessons, had the kids look them over at night and had the kids do their homework during the day.  They “flipped” how they did the teaching.

Instead of doing something just because you’ve always done it that way, look at what you are trying to accomplish and see if there is a different way to accomplish that same goal.  Redesign what you are doing by completely flipping it like Greg Green or trimming away what you don’t need to do.

The idea is not to build up a process or procedure, but to deconstruct it until you have just enough to do what you need.  In the software world, this could be called the Minimum Viable Product.  In Public Sector this is normally called impossible.

The Public Sector has a tendency of adding things to a process, making them more “complete”, trying to cover all of the bases and generally documenting or creating something so that the “hit by a bus” factor could be the entire team and things will continue.

But is that necessary?

In many cases, the answer is a resounding “No”.  Let’s take a look at Release Management.  In the Public Sector, there is supposed to be a defined process that everyone follows when doing release management.  Auditors come by and check to make sure that the rules are being followed, signatures have been gathered, check boxes ticked off, all to ensure that what is running in production is what is supposed to be running in production.  There’s a lot of human interaction in the model.  Too much.  And it slows down the process.

So get rid of the humans.

Don’t re-check the process for every release, certify the process and automate it.  No, it’s not like flipping it on its head, but you take away steps that don’t need to be done repeatedly, reduce the human involvement, take away as much as you can while maintaining the goal (an auditable release) and get closer to perfection.

We need to take a look at what we do and figure out how to accomplish that goal in the least number of steps, with the greatest efficiency.  If what you are doing is filling out paperwork “because that is how it’s always been done”, then you need to stop that.  There needs to be a purpose, a real purpose and not something made up to match the process, a purpose that adds value.

Yeah, there’s the other twist.  Adding value.  If something doesn’t add value, why are you doing it?


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